9 Debate Tactics for Defenders of Pseudoscience

Defend the Woo

1. Learn a bunch of scientific terms. You don’t have to know what they mean–it kinda helps if you don’t–just know what they are. When engaged in a debate, fling them around without remorse. Hopefully this will confuse or intimidate your opponent into submission. Good examples are “variables,” “controlled environment,” “toxicity,” “quantum,” “double blind placebo study.”

2. Mention a bunch of unrelated phenomenon and act as if there is a correlation between them and the subject in question.

Example:

“What, you don’t believe there is substantial evidence that GM crops are dangerous? How then do you explain the rising rates of autoimmune disorders, autism, and celiac disease?

Post hoc is your friend, and correlation always equals causation.

3. Graphs. Lots of graphs.

Look! Science!
Look! Science!

4. Appeal to a scientific conspiracy while maintaining that you in fact love and understand science.

“My detailed knowledge, and love of science has made me recognize that all science is prejudiced, full of bias, and corrupted by special interest.”

5. Is your hypothesis or positive claim lacking evidence? No worries, you can always pull the “not enough testing has been done” card. It isn’t your fault–science just hasn’t gotten around to discovering what you (the informed, internet-savvy investigator that you are) already know.

6. Appeal to your own valor and rugged individualism.

You’re not going to let some troublesome “scientists” with “laboratories” and “peer-review” do your thinking for you. You are more than capable of “doing your own research.” Who the hell is anyone to tell you that you cannot probe data with the best of them? You think for yourself, after all. And you have a wireless internet connection.

7. Present unsourced and uncited quotes from multiple “medical authorities,” “scientists,” and historical figures. This will give your argument the illusion of credibility.

Examples:

Thomas Edison once said, “Vaccination is the biggest deception ever devised in human history.”

As Dr. Chiropractic Homeopath wrote: “Fluoridation of water is the leading cause of cancer.”

What is already an obvious appeal to authority could also be interpreted as flat out lying, so let’s cross our fingers and hope that your adversary would not dare stoop to fact-checking.

8. Anecdotes = data.

Your subjective life adventures are just as trustworthy as rigorous experimentation. Remember when you had irritable bowls and conventional medicine failed to help you at every corner? Doctors were astonished at how ineffective their treatments were. It wasn’t until you met with the voodoo medicine man of the Amazon who gave you conserved unicorn farts combined with ginger root that you were miraculously healed. That’s all the evidence you need to confirm a hypothesis.

9. Possibility over probability.

Forget logical risk/benefit analysis and focus only on the risk, no matter how small.  It’s a guaranteed win, and should be a major theme in your arguments.

“Big pharma already admits that their products are toxic and dangerous, have you even read the warning label?”

“They give you a pamphlet illustrating the dangers of vaccinations before they administer them to your children. Have you ever read it?”

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